By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — The Selinsgrove school board is weighing whether to partner with a private, nonprofit agency and provide state-funded preschool educational services for at-risk children.
The Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program was pitched to the board Monday night by Jane Campbell, chief executive officer of Snyder Union Mifflin Child Development Inc. as a way of reaching children in families that don’t qualify for Head Start but are unable to afford a preschool program, have special needs or other risk issues associated with school failure.
State grants are available to fund the 6-year-old program, which provides preschool services to children ages 3 and 4 during the school year. It is being provided through SUMCD at the Midd-West School District’s West Snyder Elementary School and in Mifflin County.
Campbell said the school district would be asked to provide busing and a classroom in the Selinsgrove Elementary School to serve a class of 16 students.
Selinsgrove Elementary Principal Terry Heintzelman said there’s a need for the program, which would be particularly helpful in transitioning students into kindergarten by familiarizing them with the school.
Board member Larry Augustine questioned how the children would be selected for the program. “It bothers me that we’re becoming so discriminatory,” he said, noting the changes in recent years from no kindergarten to a full-day program.
It also was a question for board member Roger Sheesley, who was concerned about spending tax dollars.
“I’m trying to get a grasp of what the critical need is. Who are we trying to benefit?” he asked.
Campbell assured the board that Pre-K Counts is not an entitlement program and is designed to serve children with the most need whose families don’t qualify for other educational programs and have issues that could keep them from succeeding in kindergarten.
“These are children who are going to be coming to school with no preschool experience,” she said. “The need has been demonstrated, and the program is proven.”
The school board will decide at its April 3 meeting whether to partner with SUM Child Development and provide the yearlong Pre-K Counts program, as well as a 10-day summer program for 20 preschool students.
SUMCD serves nearly 3,000 children yearly in the three counties and operates seven child care centers, three Head Start centers, an Early Head Start Family Center and 11 schoolage centers.